Subject: XG: Speech at Seminar on Role of UN in T-L

Speech by H.E. President Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão

Seminar on the role of the United Nations in Peacekeeping and Peace Building in Timor-Leste

Dili, 26th November, 2004


Excellency, Prime Minister, Dr. Mari Alkatiri President of the Tribunal Members of Parliament Members of the Government Excellency, SRSG, Mr. Hasegawa Excellencies Distinguished guests Ladies and gentlemen

I would like to begin by highlighting what the Prime Minister explained about the people who want to live in peace and the people who respect the universal values.

The 24 years of a difficult resistance war; the 24 years of unrestrained suffering, created the desire for peace within the Timorese people. The struggle for self-determination and independence also yearned for this objective: to live in peace!

The Timorese people experienced all the horrors of war and of systematic violence and this contributed immensely to their understanding that peace is a basic right of every human being and consequently, of every people.

Before, ‘peace’ was defined as an ‘absence of war’. ‘Peace’ was also understood to be a ‘cessation of hostilities’. In recent decades, it has been proven, in many parts of the globe, that the cessation of conflicts did not necessarily mean a promise of peace or a commitment for the restoration of peace.

The prolonged war in Timor-Leste enabled the people to convince themselves that peace meant more than the simple end of the war.

The Timorese people experienced two simultaneous but distinct conflicts: internal and that which involved external agents.

The Timorese attempted to understand the cause of the conflicts; why and what motivated people to face each other as enemies.

During the internal conflict, the Timorese had the bitter experience of witnessing their families ‘destroyed’ by incomprehensible antagonisms, which provoked intolerable hatred. And when they were able to understand the extent of the evil caused by disunity instilled everywhere, they were also able to understand that many of the acts were committed for revenge to satisfy past repressed feelings.

From then on, the people began to see, not in terms of consolation but in terms of gaining a conscience, that what divided the Timorese was ‘politics’. And, little by little, they began to understand that only by adopting a policy, which again united the Timorese, could there be confidence in a victory in that uneven struggle against the occupiers.

When it was defined that the policy on National Unity could only be achieved in practice if, in their minds, the people broke down the barriers of differences, the Timorese began to give shape to the concept of reconciliation.

This spirit of reconciliation was fundamental in the conquest and recuperation of the members, of one form or another, who consciously chose not to use violence against the occupiers.

This reconciliation brought inner peace to the people, as they were capable of forgiving and capable of believing in the transformation of their peers.

I should therefore affirm that reconciliation was not an act of post-1999. Reconciliation was already a practice of the communities and of the people in general, during the most difficult years of the war.

Peace is not won by putting an end to war. Peace is established over time, when there is a capacity to formulate a more prudent policy to put an end to hatred and revenge.

Human beings, by nature, always possess differences in attitudes, as a result of the differences in the shaping and development of individual or group feelings. But more importantly, is the overall conscience of a political stance.

Ladies and gentlemen

Politics and the political objectives are the basis of a confrontational and intense division in less mature societies. I state ‘less mature’ societies, because there is a tendency in them to resort to violence. I state ‘less mature’ as they are still incapable of accepting tolerance as a moderate alternative to the incompatibility of positions.

Earlier I stated that the Timorese were already engaged in the reconciliation process, either in their communities or in the segments of the society to which they belonged.

But politics, when understood or experienced as power, with the economic privileges it offers, blocks the minds of people and pushes them to defend power through the use of violence. And that is why, even before the Popular Consultation of August 1999, two reconciliation meetings were held between the Timorese leadership; one in Dare and another in Jakarta, but without producing the desired result.

A good result, the desired result, would be if all the factions committed to not using violence as a consequence of the democratic process of the referendum. If one side displayed its full commitment, the other side was merely holding onto the privileges which power afforded them, and not abdicating the use of violence to impose its political objectives on the population.

The violence that was inflamed since the beginning of the popular consultation process and which intensified in September, only served to separate the non-patriots from the patriots and above all, to emphasize which side was more prepared to accept the spirit of tolerance.

I would like to correct what, appears to me to have been, at times or by some people, erroneously stated the displacement of more than 200,000 refugees in West Timor was not a voluntary act, as a great majority was forced onto the trucks. And this (political) measure of forcing people to dislocate to West Timor, under threats of reprisals, had the objective to pursue obvious political ends, largely developed at the beginning of the establishment of UNTAET in Timor-Leste.

It is also my duty to make clear here that some hundreds of families left of their own free will to escape accountability for the acts committed by some members.

In this context, the spirit of reconciliation, in general terms, already had solid roots in the collective conscience of the people, although individually, a person may feel more hurt than others.

This, I must say, was the base which allowed the people, following the dramatic phase of violence of September 1999, to be capable of being involved immediately in the democratic process, where tolerance and mutual respect constituted the pillars of harmony in the democratic society that is being built.

Ladies and gentlemen

I will now speak of the external agents of war, the cause for an absence of peace and the cause for violations, which normally provoke lasting hatred.

A prolonged war can have two contrary effects: one, the most common, is the exacerbation of animosity, dominated by a desire to destroy the enemy, which is not the same as defeating the enemy. When this occurs, the people, and therefore the whole society, begin to see peace as the ‘non physical existence of the enemy’ and not, as the manuals state, the ‘absence of war’.

In our case, the prolonged war gave us time to think and place questions in their rightful context.

In the first years, the Indonesian soldiers personified the concept of an enemy. Over time, the people began to understand that the Indonesian people suffered from the same oppression, to which the Timorese were being subjected in a crueler manner.

The regime was the enemy of both peoples and the Indonesian soldiers were mere instruments of the repression of the regime. The war in Timor-Leste came to be defined as ‘the art of co-existing with the enemy’.

If the Timorese attempted to follow the activities of the anti-regime groups in Indonesia, the Indonesian people also accompanied the struggle and its political development in Timor-Leste.

The strategy to resolve the conflict, through peaceful means, came as a result of the reality experienced by the Timorese, which called for a non-confrontation of actions, with the only confrontation being limited to the Guerrilla Forces.

This human and daily co-existence with the enemy demanded the Timorese to repress animosity, contain hatred and minimize the need for revenge as an immediate means of satisfying justice.

Thus, it became easier for the Timorese people to once again extend the olive branch, immediately following the end of the conflict. Many olive branches dry up as soon as the accords for the cessation of hostilities are signed. The Timorese realize that the olive branch only has meaning when it is nurtured over time.

Ladies and gentlemen

All that I have covered is very important, from the point of view on the assumption of this people regarding the politics that orient them to destroy hatred and combat revenge.

Today, the people live in peace, because they are at peace with themselves.

However, it is because of this, that we are still in the process of consolidating peace. If peace is not merely the absence of war and if peace is above all, peace of mind and heart, then independence should forge this climate of peace.

Independence, in our case, signifies more precisely the end of the struggle for the defense of this right. Today, independence is the process of building the Democratic State.

And if we speak of building, it is obvious that we still recognize the fragility of this process. I began by stating that the Timorese lived through the experience of internal conflict. I also stated that the people understood that what divided the Timorese were politics and political objectives, consequents of power.

In our nascent democracy, there is a need to prevent against possible causes of internal conflicts, whether they are of a socio-economic nature, as a product of the dissatisfaction on the lack of employment or on the slowness of development; whether they are of a criminal nature as a consequence of the establishment of organized crime; or whether they are of a political nature as an attempt against democracy and the Rule of Law.

It is within this point of view that the concept of ‘peace building’ adjusts itself to our reality, and is therefore not merely a fact of preventing wars. It demands the need for gradual and lasting solutions of problems, through the consolidation of the democratic process, in order to avoid large or small internal conflicts.

For this, the building of the Democratic State merits the collective effort of all citizens and the strengthening of State institutions demands commitment and the spirit of responsibility from all actors involved.

There is a constant need to insist on transparency and accountability, as this will only help the people to trust in the Democratic State.

The peace of mind, deriving from this situation, will be the reinforcement of the collective peace of the Nation.

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